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Us 26, Austin 7, Martin Savidge 5, West Texas 5, John 5, Boston 4, Lifelock 3, Mr. Smith 3, Iraq 3, John Berman 3, Adam Winkler 2, Gethelp 2, Anhydrous Ammonia 2, Tommy Muska 2, Katrina 2, Glenn Robinson 2, Abbott 2, Providence 2, Limestone 2, Dallas 2,
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  CNN    The Situation Room    News/Business. Wolf Blitzer. Traditional  
   reporting and online resources update international news.  

    April 18, 2013
    1:00 - 1:59am PDT  

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this is cnn breaking news. while you were sleeping, a massive explosion ripping right through a west texas fertilizer plant. dozens may be dead, hundreds are injured. this blast leveling, just simply leveling an apartment complex, damaging a nearby nursing home. also, dozens of houses nearby. >> i walked to the blast area, i searched some houses earlier tonight. massive, just like iraq, just like the murray building in
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oklahoma city. >> the fire may be out but the threat is far from over this morning because of a potentially deadly gas could be lingering in the air and being pushed by winds further into the community. good morning to you. welcome to this special edition of "early start." >> i'm john berman in boston. again this morning, it is 4 a.m. in the east. >> and we are going to begin this morning with breaking news. it's developing overnight in texas. a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small town of west texas, 20 miles from waco. the moment of impact captured on video. reports say 10 to 15 home and buildings were demolished and crews are trying to rescue residents at this hour. dozens more homes are heavily damaged. that blast shattered windows ten miles away. the town's mayor telling cnn just what it felt like.
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>> i just have never seen an explosion like that. a ball of fire and it looked like a nuclear bomb went off. big old mushroom cloud. >> so, police officials are reluctant to say how many people have died. >> at this point we don't know a number that have been killed. i will confirm there have been fatalities. i think we will see those fatalities increase as we get toward the morning. numerous injuries have been removed from the scene to the hospital. we've taken them into city limits, waco, providence where they're being treated. >> more than 150 people are being treated at area hospitals. about half the town of west texas with a population of 2,800 people has been evacuated. officials are concerned a second fertilizer tank could explode. hundreds of first responders are on the scene but the smoldering fire and the fumes are keeping the firefighters at bay. the u.s. geological survey says
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the fertilizer plant explosion registered a magnitude 2.1 on the richter scale. one of the other things the sergeant said is that the winds are shifting in the area and so the chemicals that are in the air are of serious concern to them as they continue to evacuate people. they may have to have a wider swath of evacuation now. >> quite a situation with weather expected to come in. the picture extraordinary, mind-boggling. martin savidge is on the ground in west texas, arrived just hours ago. the pictures we're looking are are staggering. what's going on now? >> reporter: the mental sense that's impacted this small town in texas. it has been a blast that has leveled people in many different ways.
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right now the effort is focused on still trying to evacuate those who may be caught up in the area of danger where there are the fumes from this fertilizer plant and also trying to rescue those who could be trapped in any of the debris. the first wave of those who could be injured, well over 150 people, have been transported. injuries range from minor to the severe. the second wave anticipated is when daylight comes because that's when authorities will have a greater ability to maneuver. it's very dark out around the plant now. it's very dangerous. but the threat of another explosion with the possibility of poisonous gas. there's so much debris, officials say, that it makes it very difficult for them to move around. here's what the public information officer told us just a few minutes ago. >> this is a downtown area. when i say downtown area, there are businesses there. there are apartments there, a nursing home was there. there are homes in the area. it is going into a midsize city
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and having to search it home by home, business by business, block by block. it's a very tedious process. >> reporter: as you've already heard, there are fatalities. that is something authorities have confirmed to us. they simply will not be able to give us a number as yet. the numbers have gone all over the place. there's no point in going to them yet. they say there are fattalitiefa. they suggest not only civilian fatalities but fattalities amon emergency responders. fire personnel responded, they got there and realized it was very dangerous because of the potential for poisonous gas so they moved to evacuate people from the nursing home, the apartment complex nearby. in the midst of that is when the devastating blast went off in the face of first responders.
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>> so, one fire and then a giant explosion after that. again, we're looking at the pictures right now of the devastation after. in the air right now, is is there any sense, can you smell any gas? >> reporter: no, i mean, we talked about the weather. the weather is going to be a factor and continue to be so. we've been buffeted by high winds throughout the evening. it's good and bad. it's all coming from one direction, so it means the potential for fumes are being driven over one specific part of town, that's the part that's been evacuated or in the process. but there's a shift anticipated coming with a storm line that's going to pass through here. that could expand the area. the winds are helping to dissipate the gas, if it does exist. the problem is, the winds are also going to change and now begin affecting another area. directly here at the command post where we are, no, we have not felt any impact. of course, they will be watching very closely. >> martin savidge in the town of
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west texas right now. on the phone is the mayor of that town, mayor tommy muska. our hearts go out to you and the entire nation for those in west texas. can you give us the latest? >> thank you very much. nothing has changed. we about a five-block area northwest of the fertilizer plant. again, we don't have any confirmation of fatalities. i know there will be. but we are going through the nursing home as well as the sites. should know something more in the morning. that mraz place has been evacuated, hazmat is monitoring the air as well as pcq. it's fine. we have that going.
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it's just a matter of monitoring the wind and having all the fire out by 3:00 before that front comes in. just trying to make sure everyone is attended for. just a devastating thing. just tore up about it. and i am, too. we're doing our best. i'm sure we lost some really good people today. all we can do is wait for daylight, clean the debris out of the street. by morning we should be able to tell what's going on. okay? >> mayor, what's the current assessment of further threats? is there any danger of more explosions or another fire in this plant? >> a school located fairly close to the fire. we have crews there putting that out. the fertilizer plant pretty much
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after the explosion was -- there wasn't a whole lot of that left. they put that out and that should dissipate the fumes come morning. we have a number of crews from all over the state helping us here. we sure appreciate it. so, we're just -- we're putting out the fires and we're searching for survivors as well as deceased. that's what i can report right now. >> mayor, obviously, the entire country has been on edge all week since the bombings in boston. have you been given any sense of what started the initial fire at the fertilizer plant? >> no. west is in the middle of central texas. this is a farming community. we're predominantly a farming community. we have farmers all over, you know, all around our town, and this is a huge business. it's been here for god knows how
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long and they're main business is fertilizing the crops in this area so there's a lot of fertilizer in that plant. there was no indication of anything other than an accident. so, that's -- that is just -- a plant that's been in west forever. i've known it forever and i've been here 65 years, so -- anyway, we'll have a press release later in the morning and i hope to give you some more details then, okay? >> all right. mayor tommy muska from west, texas, thank you very much. we'll let you get fwook your job there. we appreciate it. >> it's so difficult for those who live in the community to watch this devastation and care for the victims. let's go to adam winkler with a cnn affiliate. earlier we heard a spokesperson from the police department compare the destruction to iraq war scenes. can you paint a picture for us?
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>> reporter: it's absolutely incredible. another word we've heard is tornadic. sergeant swanta of the waco police department was one of the first to arrive on the scene. he said the devastation is massive like a trrnld, tornado, f-4, f-5. we're on the southbound service road of interstate 35, about 50 miles north of waco, two miles north of austin. you can see the lights of the baseball field at west high school. that was a facility used as triage facility earlier in the night after the devastation. we tried to get as close to the scene as we could. law enforcement officials were relying on eyewitness accounts and what law officials are telling us, and like you said, scene like iraq, bolike a bomb
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went off, tornadic. >> i know that earlier there were reports that there were a lot of firefighters from other areas, emergency personnel that were going over to the scene and if they had enough emergency personnel. have you seen a big presence there? >> reporter: the presence is massive. in fact, they're telling emergency personnel from surrounding towns, we're good, we don't need you anymore. we don't need you anymore. they're telling the public, go to abbott high school, drop off your goods, give blood, that's how can you tep around here. in terms of emergency services, the response was incredible. they're fine. it's now a recovery mission. again, as soon as the sun comes up they expect to learn much, much more. one official i talked to could not confirm the number of casualties. said there were causalitieses. i asked him how bad, he said,
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it's bad. >> we're going to check in with one of the hospitals to see how many victims they received at the hospital. if we have an update on fatalities. i wanted to ask you about a hazardous materials team. we keep hearing about the chemicals on the air. we have another reporter on the air, martin savidge, he says he can't smell anything but there are concerns with the shifting wind, the evacuation area will be larger. do you know anything about a hazardous materials team on site now? >> reporter: they tolds a hazmat team from kalin, a town an hour, hour and a half south of here, would object the way. when the sergeant from waco police was asked about hazardous materials, he said there are none where we are. we are south of town. the wind is blowing south to north. we can't smell any fumes. we tried, got closer to the scene, turned off the car, rolled down the windows, couldn't smell anything.
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perhaps at 7 a.m. when the wind could shift, we could learn much more. all law enforcement officials are telling us, don't come to west. don't try to help. the town is not under mandatory evacuation but they're trying to get people out. it's just not a good place to be. >> we're happy to have on you the ground but want you to be safe. we'll continue to check back in with you. thank you very much. joining us on the phone is glenn robinson. thank you for joining us this morning. we know that these are very difficult circumstances for you. can you give us an assessment of the number of victims that have been received at your hospital and what the types of injuries are? >> i'd be happy to. we've gone back through, and being a level 2 trauma center, we're not only see, victims from the disaster and also taking
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care of the regional type of emergency room work that goes on on any given night. we've been able to identify at least 94 patients we have treated tonight directly related to the blast up in west. probably -- they're telling us we'll probably keep 19 of these patients overnight and for the next several days as they recover. we have completed at this hour five trauma-related surgeries. we probably have a couple more to go. the type of injuries you asked. i would say those type of injuries, the type you would normally see following any explosion, especially resulting from flying debris. many of the patients that came to us this evening were suffering from a large number of lacerations, injuries and puncture wounds from the flying debris following the blast. we've been able to treat many of them, suture them, care for them.
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some have already been able to leave the facility. in fact, we'll probably have many more that will probably leave before day break this coming morning. >> there was a nursing home that was -- as i understand, right across the street. did you receive victims from there as well in. >> yes. i don't have an exact number how many are from the nursing home but we have treated several patients that were a part of that nursing home and many of them, as you would expect, are elderly patients. we've been able to treat and take care of them this evening as well. >> we've talked a lot about this chemical that has been released into the air and that folks are being evacuated because of that. have you seen any injuries that would lead you to believe it's because of the chemical being breathed in the air? >> those are the things you would begin to think of as you assess the scene, from our
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standpoint, the health care system responding to a disaster like this, but we have not seen any sort of significant numbers of patients suffering any sort of respiratory problem or anything that you would expect at this time. of course, we're on alert for that. our doctors are looking for anything that would be suspicious as a result, but at this time i'm pleased to report that we have not seen any sort of side effects or serious illness from any chemical fumes or burns. >> we're happy about that. a couple more questions for you. we understand perhaps among fatalities may have been some firefighters. do you know anything about that? have you received any of them at your hospital? >> no, we have not received any patients that have resulted in fatalities. i don't have any direct information on the exact number of fatalities. i know law enforcement is working hard to try to provide a
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number in that area but i would not be able to help you with any information in that regard. >> mr. glenn robinson, appreciate your help. let's head back to john berman at one of our other top stories, the boston marathon, the explosion there. helping us cover this other horrible situation this morning, john, as you talk to the people there and, you know, this is their community, this is where they've grown up. you know, they have to face such devastation at this hour, not even knowing how many people have died and hundreds injured and taken to the hospitals. >> that situation clearly so fluid in the town of west, texas. we are following the breaking news in this small town. it's north of waco, about 18 miles. as we saw, there was this massive explosion and this fire at a fertilizer plant that
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happened late wednesday night. at least two people are confirmed dead so far, but we're told town officials fear dozens more may have been killed. they confirm some firefighters who responded to the scene are currently unaccounted for at this hour. more than 150 people have been injured. they're being treated at area hospitals. the devastation said to be simply tremendous. can you see some of it. dozens of homes reduced to rubble. apartment complex near the plant simply leveled. rescuers are still going house to house, searching for victims, evacuating residents. it's dark there, difficult. officials are waiting for the light of day to get a better understanding of the extent of the damage and the destruction there, but we know, as i said, it's simply immense. right now, it's not know what caused the blast but it was still strong. felt 50 miles away. register as a magnitude 2.1.
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the first wave is the ground shaking and then the next is the sound. it shows you how strong this blast was. so much going on. you just talked to a hospital official. i suppose if there's any good news right now, they say they're not treating people as of this time for any kind of chemical exposure or inhalation. this being a fertilizer plant with this ammonia they're so concerned about. so many injuries, but that doctor telling you no signs of any chemical exposure right now. >> we're very happy to hear that and we're monitoring that very closely. firefighters and everyone else in the vicinity of this explosion should be very concerned about what we're talking about. it's a material called anhydrous ammonia. it's listed as a pungent gas with suffocating fumes used as fertilizer, stored at high pressure and can quickly cause dehydration and severe burns if it micks with water in the body.
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symptoms can include difficulty breathing, irritation of eyes, nose and throat and can high amounts of an high dross ammonia can also cause death. crystal anthony lives very close to that fertilizer plant. she told piers morgan she was just 100 yards away when all hell broke loose. >> just devastating. and it's bad. i can't even put it into words. i've never seen anything like that in person before. >> have you any idea how many homes may have been either totaled or damaged badly? >> no, sir. i mean, it's a residential area. it's homes, apartment complexes, the nursing home, our schools. the intermediate, middle school,
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high school all suffered damages. >> the geological survey tells us the explosion at this west, texas, fertilizer plant measured 2.1 on the richter scale. even though the blast occurred above ground, it still registered at several nearby testing stations that normally mur underground seismic activity. that nearest station is 25 miles away in lake whitney, texas. a very powerful blast and a very chaotic scene in the moments after the blast. listen to the -- wait, we don't have that audio just yet. >> john, we're going to listen in to affiliate coverage from kcen here. >> probably from texas a&m, texas task force one. i called a friend of mine in austin, i got to, and i said, please notify austin what's going on because we need more than just local. >> reporter: do you feel -- right now, is god the only thing
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that can help you guys? >> yeah. we've got help. you can see just seeing right here, an east ambulance, limestone, there's a whitney ambulance here. we've got everybody around helping us butt a true disaster situation. >> reporter: what are your prayers for your crew today and tomorrow and -- >> that we get as many saved as we can and get them to hospitals where they can get appropriate care. i believe we have a total of six helicopters on the way. there's one right there. >> reporter: you look like you're in so much pain. can you even feel that with your adrenaline? >> yeah, but i just know i have a job to do. thank god i normally go to the scene, i would have got there first, i would be dead. my wife wanted to go with me. she's in the truck right there. even on the other side of the nursing home, it blew out the windows in my truck, screwed the
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door up and the hood from the other side of the nursing home. >> reporter: prayers with you. >> thank you. >> as you can see one of the witnesses, first responder helping people. he was injured himself. >> you've been listening to live coverage of kcen, our affiliate coverage there. i'm not 100% sure because we went in the middle of the coverage but there are reports that in that area it is a local volunteer fire department that actually shows up. and when they did show up to the scene they realized very quickly that this was a situation that was going to require a lot more personnel to help and more experienced personnel to help. so, this gentleman right there was talking about the blast of the fire blowing up on the his windows. his wife was in the truck. my assumption here, john, is this was one of the local volunteer firefighters that was perhaps one of the first on the scene and realized this was an incredibly serious situation. joining us right now on the phone from austin, texas, is
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marty, ceo of the american red cross central region. thank you very much for being with us this morning. can you explain to us how you're setting up to help all of the folks that are suffering here. >> sure. the red cross's responsibility in a situation like this is make sure we take care of people's immediate physical needs, provide them with hope, comfort and support they need over the next hours, days and weeks. we've sent our local volunteers and volunteers from as far away as ft. worth and austin in the area. we have established a shelter so people have a safe place to go when they evacuate. >> do you know the volume of people you are serving? do you have any indication? >> not as of yet. there may be some people who currently haven't even come to us, so we really don't know. and i think until the fire is out and we can work with emergency management to see the true scope, we may not have an idea of that. >> you know, there are a lot of
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people watching right now, a lot of people from that area that are attempting to help. what advice would you give them? i would say i know it's very tempting to go into the area but allow them to get the roads clear and get the emergency responders in there and do what the authorities said. over the next few days, the red cross and other groups that are helping will be providing information about how to do things like volunteer or support the efforts. >> marty mckellips, ceo of the american red cross central region? >> i sure am. >> thank you. we have been telling you about the aftermath. there are serious concerns about the quality of the air. there's anhydrous ammonia in the air. earlier dr. sanjay gupta told us
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about this chemical. >> one of the directors at hillcrest hospital. he said, look, we had no specific plan to deal with this. we deal with this like any other trauma situation. the problem is this is different than other trauma situations. you have the fertilizer plant as a potential fuel for that initial explosion which causes that primary blast, which could be felt blocks away and also the secondary blast which is something we've been talking about here in boston. i didn't expect to be talking about it again in the context of something so soon but that secondary blast where shrapnel and debris are blown quite a distance as well. probably any chemical you can name are in a fertilizer plant like this. one we're hearing a lot about, the tank that may have been the
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genesis of this explosion, an high dross aammonia, typically not a problem but when there's a fire, fuel around, it can be quite flammable. this is lighter than air so it should rise up and not be a problem. consider all that, the fire, explosions, people being evacuated, this ammonia fog, people who are first responders. those themselves now at risk as a result of all that. it's of considerable concern. >> and i will add to that that there are also serious windy conditions in the area and the wind are shifting. they evacuated one area and the concern is they have to evacuate another area as winds shift. we spoke with adam winkler with one of our affiliates and he said an hour and a half away a
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hazardous unit is making their way over to west, texas, to assess the situation. we spoke to someone at the hospitals there, ceo of the hospital there, and he said they have not seen any victims that have come in for treatment they think, programs, is caused by breathing in this chemical potentially in the air. our coverage continues here on cnn. >> this is cnn breaking news. welcome back to "early start." i'm zoraida sambolin. >> i'm john berman. >> we start with breaking news. a devastating moment of impact, look, this will captured on camera. at least two people are confirmed dead but that number could rise and, unfortunately, it could rise dramatically. dozens of homes either leveled or severely damaged in that
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incredible blast. an apartment complex and nursing home took the full brunt of it. police say they're still actively searching for victims who may be trapped in their home. >> this is a downtown area. when i say downtown area, there are businesses there, there are apartments there, a nursing home were there. there are homes in the area. it is going into a midsize city and having to search it home by home, business by business, block by block. it is a very tedious process. >> about half of the town of west, texas, with a population of 2800 was evacuated. damage taking first responders by surprise. >> just complete chaos, everything. like something out of a horror movie. >> i rode up here with a -- with the police chief of one of the smaller cities over here. and he was on the response team for hurricane rita and katrina and he said it was -- they were nothing like this. >> reports say the blast was
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felt up to 50 miles away, john. >> zoraida, it is dark there, the weather is changing. it is an extremely fluid situation. and cnn's martin savidge is live for us right now on the ground in the town of west, texas. what's the latest information you're getting? >> reporter: just again to try to stress to people the severity of that blast, registered 2.1 on the richter scale. it's had a devastating impact. there are a lot of factors now coming into play even though we're some ten hours after the initial blast. one, the fact there are still fires burning in the downtown area, in and around that plant. that's a concern. on top of that, still evacuations being taken under way in the community there. it is complicated by the fact that there is so much damage. i guess the best way to try to describe it from the video i've seen, is it looks like that town
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took a direct hit from a very strong tornado. streets blocked off, buildings partially collapsed and all of that is making it difficult for emergency responders to move around and do the job they have to do. and their primary focus is still rescuing those who may be trapped. evacuating those who need to get out of harm's way and looking after survivors. as far as trying to tally up the number of fatalities, unfortunately, but understandably, that is secondary right now. it is to rescue the living. there are fears, though, that there is a growing number of fatalities, especially amongst first responders because they were drawn to the plant. they were the ones that stared it in the face when it exploded. there are concerns for fumes of anhydrous ammonia. any time there's a fire near it, you have to be afraid of another explosion. listen to the mayor as he
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described to us where things stand now. >> this is a huge business. it's been here for god knows how long. their main business is fertilizing the crops in this area, so there's a lot of fertilizer in that plant. there was no indication of anything other than an accident here. >> reporter: the worry, of course, is that could this in some way have been something other than an accident. the mayor seem to be knocking that down right away. he says, look, this is a fertilizer plant. it's a big one. the primary business around here is all agriculture. there is nothing to say other than an accident is responsible for what has happened here. meanwhile, we're still getting updates from public information officers. in fact, here's one of the more recent ones. >> on the way in i can tell you there were homes that were burning, homes that had significant devastation, based
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on windows blown out, bricks pulled off, siding pulled off. some home were leveled. it was almost tornadic, in effect. it looked like to me one home would be fine but the next two or three would be extreme devastation. >> now we have weather to deal with. there's a pretty severe strong line headed directly for here and that is only going to make matters worse. john? >> as we said, martin, this is a fluid situation going on at this minute. the officials have said they have enough personnel on the ground in term of the response team, in terms of the medical care teams. do you get the sense that the people of the town, and as we said there are evacuations going on right now, do you get the sense, since this happened at night that people know what's going on and they know what to do? >> well, i think, first of all, this is a small town. 2600, 2800 people, so you can imagine the impact physically and mentally on this small community with such a major
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blast. many people are still shocked. they're still dazed. when you try to talk to them, you can tell the conversation is just sort of automatic regurgitation of what they went through. so, i think initially people had no idea what happened. they knew it was something huge. they knew it was devastating but they couldn't initially, until they looked in the direction of the plant, know what it was. then it became pretty obvious what had happened. now it was, well, what do we do next? that is the real question. there are people who won't be able to go home for a long time due to the devastation. a lot will be able to go home once the situation has stabilized but this has really had a massive impact on a very small town. there are people reaching out from all over this part of texas to try to lend a hand. >> we've seen reaching out from the governor. one of the poignant pictures i saw, martin, was the baseball fields, the sports fields in
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this town of west, texas, so important in that part of the country. the flood lights are on because that's where they're taking people for triage, to treat them. the hospitals in waco, 18 miles away. one medical center we spoke to had already seen some 90-plus patients, that's one facility. you're looking at it now. that's the football field. you can see the treatment being given to people. the nursing home that had its walls blown out. so many people there clearly in need of so much help. i guess the good news is they are getting the help they need. i should tell you one other thing, we did speak to that medical center in waco and they said they are seeing no signs of any chemical inhalation or health threats from chemical exposure. i suppose that is good news, but is there a concern where you are of just that with this anhydrous
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ammonia from the fertilizer plant, are people given warnings about how they should behave or how to avoid inhalation? >> reporter: right. there is always going to be a concern as long as there is any kind of fire and as long as the situation is unstable anywhere near the area of that second tank that's still very much intact. it could be the blast, the first blast, was so massive that it literally just dissipated the lethality of the gas at that particular time. the other tank appears, from the pictures i've seen of it, to be intact and not necessarily leaking. so, that would be, of course, a positive. on top of that, the wind is helping to blow things arnold. i have to tell you, they have to be very concerned. they have to realize that the danger is not over. they are through the initial wave, but there is secondary waves that potentially may come of victims found, especially as daylight comes upon us, john. >> and daylight is what everyone is waiting for, martin.
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on the ground for us in the town of west, texas, martin savidge, thank you so much. zoraida. >> heather from providence hospital is joining us now on the phone. thank you for spending time with us this morning. earlier we talked to glenn robinson, the ceo of hillcrest medical center in waco, texas, a trauma center, i understand. he said they received 94 patients, 19 of them will be kept overnight. what are you seeing at your facility? >> thank you. we have treated 65 patients, and of the 65 we have admitted 12. >> can you tell us their conditions? >> one was in critical condition and has been upgraded to stable. >> that's good news. >> very good. the rest of the injuries are consistent with an explosion. things like lacerations, cuts, bruises, broken bones, respiratory distress and, of course, some head trauma. >> you are seeing some
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respiratory distress. they were not seeing any of that at hillcrest medical center. we are concerned about that because of the anhydrous ammonia perhaps released into the air and people breathing that. can you tell us about the problems you're seeing? >> i don't have further details on the respiratory distress. i do know that we have a full staff of respiratory therapists called in and that are treating our patients of the admissions. i can't tell you how many of those are due to respiratory distress, but i just know that is something we have been seeing. >> and of the 12 you had admitted, had you taken any -- i don't know about the one in critical condition. have you taken any into the o.r. >> not that i'm aware of, no. >> that's good news as well. last question to you -- actually, i have two because we did understand some firefighters were missing, some sustained injuries. did you receive any of those? have you received any at your medical facility? >> i can't say we have.
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it is possible but i cannot comment on whether or not we received any firefighters. >> what about any fatalities? >> we have not seen any fatalities. >> we really appreciate your time this morning. we're happy with the things you're telling us and delighted to hear the person in critical condition has been upgraded. appreciate your time and we'll check back in with you and best of luck. >> thank you. bye-bye. >> one witness tells our affiliate kcen-tv what he saw. >> we got a report of a fire at fertilizer plant. we sent the firetrucks and sent emt unit to back up the fire. i went to the medical director of the nursing home. i went to the station close es to where the fire was and called all personnel and said, get people evacuated to the far side of the building. luckily we had most everybody out then. but then there was just a major, major explosion. the windows came in on me. the roof came in on me.
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the ceiling came in. i worked my way out to go get some more help. of course, we lost all communication because the power went out. the ambulance station is badly damaged. the whole 1500-block of still meadow, which is the closest street to it. my son lives there. he was on the second floor. that whole school is gone. >> reporter: where were you -- >> i was in the nursing home, which is just -- >> reporter: what is this like? i mean, explain, how are you feeling right at this second? >> exhausted. trying to get everybody where they need to. trying to do my job. i can't communicate with anybody. we didn't have cell service. finally got enough information and went to the helicopter because they have different radio systems to notify mclellan
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disaster to get us all the helicopters, everything we could here. we still have a lot of people trapped in houses but it's a hazardous material, we can't get to them right now. >> reporter: have you seen anything like this? >> no. i was with fema after katrina. it's just overwhelming, for a town of 2300 we have three ambulances and there are literally hundreds of people hurt. i know -- i don't -- i haven't been there but i'm very worried that my ambulance that was on scene, those personnel are probably deceased. as some of the firemen may be deceased. i was inside a building quite away from it. i know most of the houses there are in bad shape. our ambulance building is destroyed. >> reporter: what would you compare this to? >> an atom bomb -- but a bomb, yeah. >> reporter: what's your
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emotional status right now? >> overwhelmed. trying to do the best i can. they're trying to sit me down because i'm bleeding but i said, i have a job to do. there's people hurt more than me that i need to get but i can't communicate with my people. our radios aren't working. i don't know where my people are at to get back to them. >> reporter: who are you most worried about and concerned about right now? >> the people trapped in houses, i'm worried about the ems personnel. we had a class going on so we had 18 people in the class. they were running that direction when the explosion went. i have no idea how many ems may be hurt. >> reporter: if you could ask for anything from the nation right now, what would it be? >> we're getting support. the main thing right now is just get support here. we're going to need some heavy equipment, probably the search team from texas a&m, because it's like an earthquake. a lot of the buildings are gone. they need to get some search
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teams in here to get people out. probably from texas a&m, texas task force one. i called a friend in austin and i said, please notify austin what's going on. i said, we need more than just local. >> reporter: do you -- i mean, right now, is god the only thing that can help you guys? >> yeah. yeah. we've got help. you can see just right here, there's an east ambulance test, there's with waco, limestone, a whitney ambulance here. we have everybody around helping us. but it's a true disaster situation. >> reporter: what are your prayers for today and tomorrow and -- >> that we get as many saved as we can and get them to hospitals where they can get appropriate care. i believe we have a total of six helicopters on the way. there's one right there. >> reporter: you look like you're in so much pain. can you even feel that with your adrenaline? >> yeah, but i just know i got a job to do.
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thank god, i normally go to the scene, i would have got to the fire first. thank god i didn't. i would probably be dead. my wife wanted to go with me. she's in the truck right there. even on the other side of the nursing home, it blew out the windows, screwed up the door and the hood from the other side of the nursing home. >> and i believe we have that gentleman on the phone right now. mr. george smith, are you there? >> yes. >> sir, i have to tell you, you are a hero. we are watching you in action here. i heard you say that you were bleeding. somebody's trying to get you to sit down but you can't because have you a job to do. so, my first question to you is, how are you, sir? >> they didn't see us and i calmed down. i got all sutured up. >> sir, it seemed to me that you
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were having difficulty breathing. was that just because of the stressful situation or were you having some reaction maybe to the chemicals in the air? >> there was some toxic smoke in the air. >> and how did you end up at the scene? >> medical director for west ems and i'm also medical director for the nursing home. when i saw the fire, i knew there were chemicals there, so i went to the nursing home to try to move people to the side closest to the other side of the nursing home. we called all the personnel from the nursing home. i think we saved some lives getting people to the other side of the nursing home. then all of a sudden we had that massive explosion and the windows and the ceiling and all that fell in. >> mr. smith, i heard you talk about some fatalities. did you see fatalities at the scene? >> where the explosion was, it
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was too toxic, they won't let anybody in. i know we lost at two. i believe six volunteers. there's a fatality -- we have at least one fatality in the apartment complex across from the nursing home. we just now -- i left the area because i'm going to the hospital to get treated and calm down. we'll wait for daylight. going to the houses [ inaudible ] there are several fatalities. they were mentioning patients that went to the waco hospital.
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hospital here treated something like 30 people. and i know at least three of those were critical. they were flown up to dallas, including one child. >> and that was at hillsborough hospital, you said? >> yes, the regional hospital. >> sir, at times i wasn't able to understand what you were saying so this may be redundant and i may be asking you to repeat some things, but when you were on the scene and there were fatalities, could you tell us, was it from the nursing home? were there any children involved here? >> there were children from their houses. one little boy i understand got up and thrown into a wall. one child got thrown into the yard. his family picked him up and grandparents drove by private car to regional hospital. he's critical and the grandparents are critical. they were flown up to dallas
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regional hospital. >> i was reading online that it's a volunteer fire department that actually responds to this area. am i correct in saying that? >> yes, volunteer fire department and volunteer ambulance service. >> and of those volunteer firefighters that showed up to the area, how many do you think were lost? how many do you think are dead? >> we think six of them. >> and i sincerely appreciate your time this morning. i know this is very difficult for you. this is your home. of the folks that were in the nursing home, and i do know you have a connection to the nursing home. you say that -- are you the medical director for the nursing home? >> yes, i am. the medical director. what kind of injuries there did the people sustain? >> most of them were blast injuries. the feeling fell down, the ceiling tiles. i know we have at least one broken leg, broken femur.
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there may be as many as between seven and ten nursing home residents not accounted for. they may have been picked up by family members and we don't know. it was very, very hectic. >> and if you can just backtrack for me and tell me, what happened? how did you know there was a problem? was it the explosion and the smoke and the fire? where were you when this happened? >> i had my ambulance radio and i'm medical director. so if there's something bad, i go to the scene. they radioed they were going to a fire. [ inaudible ] going to get them into air conditioning and get them cool. when i started there, i saw how big the fire was and the toxic
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chemical so i went straight to the nursing home to evacuate that side of the building. i think we got that accomplished before the explosion. >> mr. smith, you feel there are probably a lot more fatalities and we just have to wait until daylight in order to sift through the destruction? >> yes. yes, do i. yes, ma'am, because some of the houses are just totally destroyed. there have been search and rescue with dogs and specialized equipment. >> and i know there were a lot of helicopters deployed in order to move people expeditiously to some hospitals. i thought i heard someone say earlier there was a problem with one of the helicopters. did you witness that? >> no, i didn't know that. i did know that the faa declared a no-fly zone around ten miles around west because they were afraid one of the other tanks would explode and that would send out a blast and can make a
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helicopter crash. but to the best of my knowledge, i don't know of any problems with helicopters. >> sir, how long have you lived in the area? >> 38 years. >> i'm sorry, could you repeat that? >> 38 years. >> has there ever been a problem with this plant in the past? >> no. >> nothing? >> no. >> mr. smith, i sincerely appreciate your time this morning. we wish you a speedy recovery. you are nothing but a hero. most people run away from crisis and you ran right to it. so, thank you. >>. [ inaudible ] >> thank you, sir. >> john? >> doer a >> can you hear the strain in his voice, but the resilience. what a night and his strength and best wishes to him as this
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situation absolutely continues at this moment in west texas. >> as you're watching right there -- >> with us is kay -- >> you're seeing all the fire still burning, john. i just wanted to mention that. >> the fire's still very much burning and still a great deal of concern about the possibility of what may be in the air with the weather changing and the wind shifting. kxan reporter is standing by live in west, texas, right now. chris, what are you seeing? >> we're about three-quarters of a mile away from where that plant explosion happened. and one of the windows of this hotel three-quarters of a mile away knocked out but this hotel filled up quickly. people who were evacuated. we've been talking to a few of them, hearing their stories. they say it started as a fire. they were watching the fire, as a lot of curious people would, thinking they were far enough away. but then when that explosion hit, it shook the ground and caused windows to be blown out.
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it caused homes to come crashing down. it caused that apartment complex that everybody's been saying to come crashing down. i talked to a woman who lived in that apartment complex. she heard the explosion. she looked up, her balance cone started to fall down and she started to run. she ran. she spent the rest of the time to try to get in touch with her friends to see if her neighbors made it out. you hear stories of people being trapped. we really are waiting for the sun to come up just to see how bad everything really is. >> this explosion, as we understand it, happened around the: 9:00 at night. that's when people are home, in their homes, their apartments. when this thing exploded, they were too close to the scene, too close to the situation. the people who have evacuated and are at the hotel right now, what are they doing?
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>> well, really they are -- they're in their rooms. they're coming and going. we've seen a few people dropping off water. they're trying to get in touch with friends. they're making sure everyone's accounted for. a few people are just really trying to be good samaritans through all of this. i talked to one man, he was just giving people rides. wherever they were going, he was trying to get them there. a few shelters have been set up in the area. we just got by from one from abbott, texas, five to ten miles to the north of west. they had shelters set up. nothing was in it but they had a lot of volunteers and a lot of water that had been donated. it's almost as if they're expecting over the next few days to take care of some people. >> we do understand there is some weather headed toward the area right now. how might that complicate the situation? >> yeah. it's funny, one of the men we talked to had his windows blown
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out. for a short time he was able to go back and board them up. he knew the weather was coming before they told him to evacuate. right now it's very windy. i'm looking outside and seeing bushes and trees whip around pretty good. it's very windy. as that wind turns we start to hear concerns about that toxic gas. that's certainly out there. concerns about an explosion. definitely the weather is something they are monitoring and this wind could really complicate things. >> all right, our thanks to you. that's our affiliate kxan, a reporter live just three-quarters of a mile from that massive explosion in west, texas. thank you very much, chris. >> we're going to take a quick break. when we come back, we'll have much more on that massive explosion at the fertilizer plant in west texas.
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